FoundlingReview

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            When the baby bird drowned in a puddle in our backyard you made me bury it. It was a tiny thing, I wondered how its heart could beat inside a chest so small. Its beak was no more than a half a baby's thumbnail, the wings mere crooked angles covered in downy feathers not ready to fly.

 

            We held the service side by side in the dirt and weeds behind the shed. The bird was entombed in a box of elbow macaroni we fished out of the trash. We both wrote our goodbyes on the inside flap in silver crayon, used only for special occasions.

 

            You were six and I was eight, so it was my job to speak. I would have said we were sorry the baby bird did not survive. We would have helped if we saw it fall from the tree, we would have pulled it from the puddle and put it in a shoe box with a dish cloth inside. It would have lived in our bedroom under the warmth of a lamp. We would have smuggled milk or soggy bits of bread and coaxed it to eat; we would have loved it and shown it the care a small thing of the outdoors needed.

 

            I didn't say those things though. We dug the hole solemnly, in silence, and you looked at me with the eyes of an old man and put the box of macaroni into the earth. We covered it with dirt, leaves and small rocks. In a gesture beyond your years you pulled a favorite marble out of your pocket and put it on top. A child's offering for a child's temple.

 

            And when you got sick, I watched you sleep in the next bed, listened to your thready breaths exhaled into the dark. I made you drawings in silver crayon. I conjured words to heal you, sacred texts to put under your pillow, prayers of please, please and I love my brother. I begged you to eat a bowl of soup or take a piece of bread. I dipped the spoon and held it to your lips. You looked at me with your old man's eyes to tell me what you couldn't say.

 

            They took you to the hospital to make you well. Our mother wouldn't let me visit, she said it was only a place for grown-ups. But you weren't grown and I needed to see you. I needed to plead over your bedside with incantations only a child could know.

 

            When the time came they put you in a box too. I went to the backyard and unearthed the bird we buried together. It became decayed bits of bone and blackened soil. I never found your marble.

    


Carol Deminski's stories have appeared or are forthcoming in PANK, Dogzplot, Right Hand Pointing, Bartleby Snopes, Short, Fast and Deadly and elsewhere. Her blog can be found at http://cdeminski.wordpress.com.
 




Many of my stories involve the theme of loss. I don't know what's going to come out of me until I start writing. I never know how it will end. I don't remember what triggered this piece. I had no idea the brother was going to die until I “hit the turn” in the story, then I realized that's what was happening. It made me sad, so for me the emotion hit the right notes. When it was done, it was about loss. Again.





 





  


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